Mappa Mundi thinks take a classic vehicle bigger to on tour; An 18th-century romp is being brought to the stage as a co-production between three Welsh theatre companies. Karen Price speaks to Peter Doran who is directing She Stoops To Conquer.
JUST over a year ago, Peter Doran reopened the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven with a much-heralded sell-out production of The Hired Man.
Now the artistic director is sharing his experience by joining forces with another Welsh theatre company for a tour of Oliver Goldsmith's classic 18th century farce She Stoops To Conquer.
It is being staged by Mappa Mundi, which was formed 15 years ago by a group of likeminded actors, designers and a composer, who felt there were then very few opportunities for them in Wales to create and perform works of classic texts.
She Stoops To Conquer is quite an ambitious project for the relatively small company, as it's a co-production with both the Torch Theatre and Theatr
Mwldan in Cardigan. "Mappa Mundi had asked me several times if I could direct one of their shows but it just never worked out," says Doran.
"But this time, it fits in perfectly.
They asked me what I would like to do and I said that I thought She Stoops To Conquer would be good.
"Not only is it a brilliant comedy, it's also perfectly suited to Mappa Mundi.
"Although written in the 18th century, the characters seem totally real and in many ways very modern; the themes of snobbery, class and society are as relevant today as they've ever been and young people having to cope with the rigours of everyday life while trying to find both themselves and a partner is both fascinating and enormously resonant.
"It has never left the repertoire.
If you look back at the programmes of any theatre during the last 200 years, you will see it cropping up.
"There's no audience participation, but a lot of the dialogue is said directly to the audience.
Mappa Mundi have actors who are used to addressing the audience in that way." Mappa Mundi are renowned for their sumptuous and inventive sets, clever lighting and colourful costumes. Doran says the production will stay faithful to the original text, but it will be given the usual Mappa Mundi treatment which will provide audiences with a whole new perspective on the classic play. She Stoops To
Conquer calls for a larger cast than Mappa Mundi usually use so the company felt it would be expensive to stage.
After landing the job as director, Doran offered to co-produce along with Theatr Mwldan, and the three companies pooled their resources.
"There are 10 actors, which isn't a lot, but I usually work with six people," says Doran. "I've worked with many of the cast members in different productions, but this is the first time I'm working with them as a collective." The cast includes Kieron Self, who is best known for playing Roger the dentist in BBC's My Family and the policeman in BBC Wales' High Hopes, and Richard Nichols who's appeared in TV Welsh rugby sketch Scrum IV.
Following rehearsals in Cardiff, She Stoops To Conquer opens at Theatr Mwldan on Friday before touring.
"It's all slotting in very nicely - you can't see the joins," says Doran, when I speak with him during his break from rehearsals.
Although it is a co-production, She Stoops To Conquer retains Mappa Mundi's sardonic style, thanks to its mix of secret elopements and nocturnal confusions, which take a satirical poke at polite society and paint a portrait of life and love in the town and country with mistaken identities, acts of blatant greed and selfishness.
Doran is now in his eleventh year as artistic director of the Torch Theatre. It reopened in March 2008 after an extensive refurbishment.
The company stages five productions a year and She Stoops To Conquer will be staged at the venue later this year.
Doran was made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2006.
He has himself enjoyed acclaim on both sides of the camera and Doran is curtain - even once appearing as Dirty Den's cell mate in East- Enders.
But for now he's more than happy to be out of the spotlight as he focuses on directing.
He's thoroughly enjoying working on a project away from the Torch Theatre.
"It's good to get out of your everyday workplace for a while," he admits. "You respond to different people in different ways. It's been very stimulating working with new people. It's a whole new experience and very creative.
If I was directing She Stoops To Conquer for the Torch it would be a different production. I might feel like I know what the Torch's audiences like to see but this time round I've got to look at the bigger picture.
" We are also playing at a variety of different venues, from the Sherman in Cardiff to much smaller places, so the production has got to be able to fit in all of these different spaces." She Stoops To Conquer is at Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan, from April 23 to 25; TheWelfare, Ystradgynlais, on April 29; Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, April 30 to May 1, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, on May 5 and 6; Aberdare Coliseum on May 7; Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, on May 8 and 9; Aberystwyth Arts Centre on May 12; Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, May 14; Theatr Hafren, Newtown, on May 16, Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli, on May 19; Venue Cymru, Llandudno, on May 21; The Stiwt, Rhosllannerchrugog on May 23, Blackwood Miners Institute on May 27; Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl, on May 28 andWyeside Arts Centre, BuilthWells, on May 30 Peter
SATIRICAL: Mali Tudno Jones appears in She Stoops to Conquer